Leon Leyson, a Holocaust survivor and one of the youngest refugees saved by German businessman Oskar Schindler, has died at the age of 83.
At just 10-years-old, Leyson experienced the Nazi invasion of Poland, and began to work for Schindler when he was 13. Many of Leyson’s family died in the Holocaust. Leon, his parents, and his older brother and sister survived the horrific events.
After Leyson and his surviving family moved to the United States in 1949, he was drafted into the US Army, and often spoke afterwards about how grateful he was to be able to serve his new country, reports NBC News.
He was educated at Los Angeles City College, and later became a teacher at Huntington Park High School. There, he taught for 39 years. He lived in Fullerton with his wife, Liz, and had two children.
Throughout his life, Leyson was mostly quiet about his experiences during the Holocaust, and most didn’t know that he was a survivor until Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List came out in 1993.
He gave speeches about his experiences in the Holocaust at elementary schools, high schools, and colleges thereafter, detailing how he lost family members and loved ones and what day-to-day life during the Holocaust was like.
“Five of us survived the war, this is the bottom line, out of everyone who was related to me in Poland. And we survived because we were on Schindler’s list,” Leon said during an NBC4 profile interview in 2008.
In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Chapman University, where he regularly spoke. After hearing the news, he joked, “I’m really speechless. I’ll be a doctor, so if you have a headache, come see me.”
Below, you will find a two-part video speech from Leon Leyson about his experiences during the Holocaust, and his place on Schindler’s list: